…this again? [DOT 24/5/22]

probably not for the last time...

…how many times do we get to tread this same ground?

Over the almost six months of Partygate, the same narrative has played out repeatedly: just as Boris Johnson seems to have put the saga behind him, new images emerge to refocus everyone’s minds, with a corrosive effect on the prime minister’s image and ratings.

Last Thursday when the Metropolitan police inquiry formally closed with just one fine for Johnson, Conservative MPs were exchanging admiring – or in some cases exasperated – messages about how the “greased piglet” had slipped free yet again.

…they talk about stories that have “got legs”…& not coincidentally they also talk about stories that are hobbled…but some do seem to limp on

Just three days on, photos showing Johnson in a packed room raising his glass and making a speech during the leaving drinks of the former communications chief Lee Cain on 13 November 2020 make the prime minister’s life difficult again in several interconnected ways.

Even after Gray submits her report, Johnson faces an inquiry by a committee of MPs into whether he misled the Commons when he said he knew nothing about social gatherings – an offence which, if demonstrated, would normally lead to resignation.

…said report is due any day now…& for added amusement/bemusement/sheer-failure-to-add-up…some people who attended some of the same things that boris didn’t get fined for by the police…including the one that particular picture is of…did get a fine…which I’m sure is entirely above board & can be explained by something other than the proverbial wink & a nudge

The photos notably weaken Johnson’s defence, not least given a parliamentary exchange from last December in which the prime minister, when asked by the Labour MP Catherine West about events on the date in question, insisted “the rules were followed at all times”.

…so if the met ever get around to explaining themselves you may want to have a liberal amount of salt on hand to take that with

The Met on Monday declined to answer any further questions after the photos emerged showing Johnson at an event for which he was not fined. The prime minister has a glass in his hand, and is surrounded by others clutching glasses. Copious bottles of wine and other drinks can be seen. The Met said: “We are not adding to our last statement.”

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has been urged to investigate why Johnson was not fined for the event. The Lib Dems’ deputy leader, Daisy Cooper, wrote to the police watchdog’s director general, Michael Lockwood, on Monday night asking it to require the Met to clarify its decision-making process.

Cooper said: “The Metropolitan police has so far failed to offer any statement of clarification regarding their decision-making process. They have not set out the evidential thresholds which they used to determine whether FPNs should be issued.

…but…you know…I probably wouldn’t hold my breath…after all…it does seem like a difficult needle to thread

“The result of this lack of transparency is that the release of photographs such as that of the prime minister drinking in Downing Street, on an occasion for which he was not fined, will likely create considerable public confusion.

“In particular, it is hard to understand why some individuals, in particular more junior members of staff, who attended the same gatherings as the prime minister received questionnaires and FPNs, while the prime minister did not.”

…it’s also…in particular…curious that even now boris will continue to deny things he’ll wind up getting shown to have lied about that make him look worse…so I won’t get into the whole thing about his having met with sue gray in a fashion that seems to stretch credulity as being for reasons other than to do as much winking & nudging as he thought he could get away with before she released a report that supposedly is very much going to name names…but…the lengths to which they went to try to avoid admitting that meeting was at downing street’s behest might have a shot at being a textbook example of “the run around”…so you might at least be amused by john crace’s imagined version of that conversation…because when it comes to other things that just won’t go away…amusement generally isn’t what I’d say they provoke

Washington DC’s attorney general has sued Mark Zuckerberg, seeking to hold the Facebook co-founder personally responsible for his alleged role in allowing the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica to harvest the personal data of millions of Americans during the 2016 election cycle.

The suit, filed in the capital by the District of Columbia attorney general, Karl Racine, alleges that Zuckerberg directly participated in policies that allowed Cambridge Analytica to gather the personal data of US voters without their knowledge in an attempt to help Donald Trump’s election campaign.
Carl Tobias, Williams chair in law at the University of Richmond, said it can be “difficult” to sue corporate officers in their personal capacity, and Racine had failed in an attempt earlier this year to sue Zuckerberg when the suit was filed too late. “This filing seems to be creative, but it may not be more successful than previous attempts to sue CEOs and corporate officers in a personal capacity,” said Tobias.

Meta declined to comment.

…& sometimes…well…they make it difficult to align the concept of justice with, shall we say, the business of justice(s)?

The US supreme court on Monday gutted constitutional protections that for years have provided a federal lifeline to innocent prisoners facing prolonged incarceration or even execution following wrongful convictions stemming from poor legal counsel given to them by the states.

In a 6 to 3 ruling, the newly-dominant rightwing majority of the nation’s highest court barred federal courts from hearing new evidence that was not previously presented in a state court as a result of the defendant’s ineffective legal representation.

…it’s certainly…heavy on the opinion

…seems chillingly light on the reasoning or justification for that majority stance, though…notably when it comes to anything resembling a refutation of the criticisms in the dissent part…but…that’s apparently because we’re not requiring the pretense that something’s justifiable for supreme court rulings now…let alone anything logically defensible if this one is any guide

…& however bad that looks in principle…it looks worse in the specifics

In his opinion, Thomas presented the case as one of states’ rights. He said that federal courts should not be allowed to override the states’ “core power to enforce criminal law”.
The case before the justices arose after state officials in Arizona petitioned the supreme court to prevent two of the state’s death row inmates – one with a strong case of proclaimed innocence, the other with a history of family abuse – from seeking relief in federal court from capital punishment.
Lawyers for the condemned men pointed out that they had only failed to present the evidence in state court because the legal counsel they had been assigned by the state was woefully inadequate.

If they were blocked from petitioning a federal court, the men would in effect be sent to the death chamber simply because incompetent lawyers had missed a filing deadline or failed to uncover a glaring truth.

…speaking of glaring

Thomas’s opinion also overturns previous supreme court rulings, in an abrogation of the court’s own adherence to the principle of stare decisis – that is, being faithful to precedent. In 2012 the supreme court ruled in Martinez v Ryan that prisoners could have access to federal court in cases where they had suffered from ineffective legal counsel in the state courts.
In her dissenting opinion, Sotomayor decried the ruling. “This decision is perverse. It is illogical,” she wrote.
She concluded that as a result of the majority decision from the nine-member supreme court bench, the Sixth Amendment to the US constitution’s guarantee that criminal defendants have the right to effective legal counsel at trial “is now an empty one”.

In future, she said, prisoners who have had poor legal assistance would have no relief. “The responsibility for this devastating outcome lies not with Congress, but with this court.”

…although I guess I’d argue that there’s plenty of blame to go around…& a good bit of it belongs at the doorstep of one m. mcconnell & his unparalleled collection of double standards…along with the rest of the Gerontologically Obstructionist Partisans…the federalist society…the list goes on…& sometimes it seems like it should be a big deal someone said something

A midlevel diplomat at Russia’s United Nations mission in Geneva, Mr. Bondarev on Monday became the most prominent Russian official to resign and publicly criticize the war in Ukraine since the invasion on Feb. 24.

…it just…doesn’t always seem like it’s going to change the shit it underlines as needing to be different

“Those who conceived this war want only one thing — to remain in power forever, live in pompous tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian Navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity,” Mr. Bondarev said in his email. “To achieve that they are willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes.”

…but it sure does suck the way the shape of the thing seems to echo like they’re all riffs on the same tune

The Kremlin has gone to extraordinary lengths to silence dissent on the war. On state television, the war’s opponents are regularly branded as traitors. A law signed by Mr. Putin in March punishes “false information” about the war — potentially defined as anything that contradicts the government line — with as much as 15 years in prison. Partly as a result, virtually no government official had spoken out publicly against the invasion until Mr. Bondarev’s resignation.
“Instead of presenting your own analysis as objectively as possible along with your suggestions on how to proceed, we often presented information that was certain to be liked,” he said. “That was the main criterion.”

…pursuing a narrative that denies reality in service of illegitimate ends while branding all coverage that isn’t relentlessly sycophantic as fake news…it’s like the political equivalent of the four chord song, these days

…& I’m growing weary of the chorus

“I simply cannot any longer share in this bloody, witless and absolutely needless ignominy,” Mr. Bondarev wrote.

…& I don’t really have any appetite for the next encore

WASHINGTON — Jonathan F. Mitchell, the architect of the law that sharply curtailed abortions in Texas, filed a brief in the Supreme Court the other day. He has moved on to affirmative action.
“This brief supplies conservative justices with what they may well deem an enticing, elegant approach to dismantling affirmative action,” said Justin Driver, a law professor at Yale.
He told the justices that they need not decide whether affirmative action is barred by the Constitution. All they need do, he wrote, is apply the plain language of a federal civil rights law, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars race discrimination by institutions that receive federal money.
His argument relies on textualism, which is the dominant mode of statutory interpretation at the Supreme Court these days, and not only on the political right. “We are all textualists now,” Justice Elena Kagan, a liberal, famously said.
Mr. Mitchell’s brief, filed on behalf of America First Legal Foundation, a conservative group led by senior members of the Trump administration, said that “the command of Title VI is clear, unambiguous and absolute.”

The statute says: “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

…though according to the same bunch of assholes notably that’s a lot less absolute & apparently far from clear enough to allow for…say…application to voting rights…but I digress

Mr. Mitchell filed his brief, on behalf of neither side, in the challenge to the admissions policies of Harvard, a private institution subject to Title VI. The University of North Carolina, a public institution, is subject to both Title VI and the equal protection clause.

Mr. Mitchell’s brief will not please all of his usual conservative allies, many of whom would prefer a sweeping and permanent constitutional ruling. But Mr. Mitchell urged the Supreme Court to avoid the constitutional issue, calling it “a much closer question, because it is far from clear that the text and original meaning of the equal protection clause preclude the use of remedial racial preferences.”

…either way…it’s not like the remixes appeal to reason, either

According to some commentators, claims that the right to contraception could be on the chopping block are little more than hyperbolic “catastrophizing” that cannot be taken seriously. Prominent constitutional law scholars also have insisted that such claims are little more than baseless fearmongering, and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page insisted that liberal fears about overruling rights to contraception and same-sex marriage are little more than an “implausible parade of horribles.”

Such high-level minimizing is not surprising. To understand whether the right to access contraception, like the right to abortion, could be overturned, it’s necessary to pick up on clues in Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion.
In Justice Alito’s telling, what made Roe “egregiously wrong” was the fact that the right to abortion is not explicit in the Constitution’s text and is not “deeply rooted” in the history and traditions of the United States.

But the same could be said of other unenumerated rights, including, and especially, contraception. Nowhere does the Constitution speak of a right to contraception — the Constitution does not even explicitly mention women. And as many conservatives have noted, the American legal landscape was littered with prohibitions on contraception right up until the court invalidated Connecticut’s ban on contraception in 1965’s Griswold v. Connecticut.

Justice Alito himself has already set in motion the means for challenging the right to contraception. In 2014’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the family that owns the craft store company objected on religious grounds to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, which required employers to provide employees with insurance coverage for contraception. Specifically, Hobby Lobby balked at providing its employees with insurance plans that would cover IUDs and emergency contraceptives, like Plan B, based on the unsubstantiated claim that such contraceptives are abortifacients. The court, in an opinion written by Justice Alito, ruled for Hobby Lobby.
Beyond that, the draft opinion in the pending abortion case provides a path for challenging the constitutionality of all contraception. In a footnote, Justice Alito highlights an argument linking abortion with eugenics. The argument is most closely associated with Justice Clarence Thomas, who in a 2019 concurrence argued that abortion restrictions could be the state’s attempt to prevent abortion from becoming “a tool of eugenic manipulation.” Justice Thomas’s argument hinged, in part, on the relationship between Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood and the modern birth control movement, and the eugenics movement.

Justice Alito’s decision to include that footnote in his draft opinion is puzzling — by the draft opinion’s logic, overruling Roe is a function of textualism and originalism, not eugenics. Perhaps it was merely a collegial nod to Justice Thomas, who has diligently husbanded the eugenics argument and seen it flourish in lower court rulings on abortion.

Or, more ominously, perhaps the footnote is intended to preserve — in the most important Supreme Court decision in a generation — the view that the modern birth control movement is irrevocably tainted by its past associations with eugenics and racial injustice. After all, the court has overruled past precedents in order to remedy a racial injustice.
To quote Justice Antonin Scalia, “it takes real cheek” for Justice Alito to insist that the draft opinion’s logic can be confined to abortion and does not implicate any other rights. The document, if finalized, will not simply lay waste to almost 50 years’ worth of precedent — it will provide a blueprint for going even further. The devil, after all, is in the details.

…I mean…it’s rare for anyone to outdo the brits in the understatement stakes…but…when it comes to putting it mildly…”it takes real cheek” has got to be up there…I mean…for my money even “unmitigated gall” would be shooting for understatement…but…you know how it goes…there’s always context

CO2 is the greenhouse gas most responsible for heating the planet, with most of it coming from the burning of fossil fuels. As a result, it has been the major focus of international efforts to prevent climate breakdown.

However, other greenhouse gases also have a sizeable warming effect, and if we ignore them we will fail to keep temperatures within globally accepted limits, according to research published on Monday.

The study found that cuts to CO2 alone could not achieve the reductions needed to stay within 1.5C of pre-industrial temperatures.

But cutting methane and other “short-lived climate pollutants” (SLCPs) such as soot would reduce the global heating effect in the near term, thus giving the world “a fighting chance” of staving off climate catastrophe, the scientists said. Methane warming effect is as much as 80 times that of C02, although it quickly degrades in the atmosphere.
Plugging the methane leaks from oil and gas operations, including shale wells, and stopping harmful practices such as venting or flaring the gas, is not only technically feasible but can also be highly profitable at today’s gas prices.
Emissions of methane have been soaring in recent years, the result of leaks and venting from oil and gas exploration, and shale gas wells, and from the intensive rearing of livestock for food. Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency said many countries were drastically under-reporting their emissions of methane, and that the global problem was far worse than previously thought.

The IGSD paper, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed the huge potential for “buying time” to change the world’s energy systems by concentrating on cutting methane, and other SLCPs including soot, hydrofluorocarbons, ground-level ozone and nitrous oxide.
The paper found the importance of “non-carbon dioxide pollutants” had been “underappreciated by scientists and policymakers alike and largely neglected in efforts to combat climate change”.

Last year, before the Cop26 climate summit, the US and the EU launched a global pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030, to which more than 100 governments responsible for more than half of those emissions are now committed. However, Russia – which has some of the world’s highest methane emissions, owing to its leaky oil and gas infrastructure – is not among them.

…although…sometimes that context seems to be short on some fundamental essentials

Gavin Newsom threatened the possibly of statewide mandates in a meeting with representatives from major water agencies, including those that supply Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area, according to his office. The Democratic governor has avoided issuing sweeping mandatory cuts in water use and instead favored an approach that gives local water agencies power to set rules for water use in the cities and towns they supply.
“Every water agency across the state needs to take more aggressive actions to communicate about the drought emergency and implement conservation measures,” Newsom said in a statement.
California is in its third year of drought and virtually all areas of the state are classified as either in severe or extreme drought.

…& it can seem like it’s all talk & no action

How soon Newsom could impose mandatory restrictions if conservation doesn’t improve wasn’t clear. He plans to meet with the water agencies again in two months, his office said. A spokesperson, Erin Mellon, said the administration would reassess conservation progress in just “a few weeks”. She didn’t offer a metric the administration would use to measure.
After the last drought, the state started requiring cities and other water districts to submit drought response plans that detail six levels of conservation based on how much water is available. Newsom has asked the board to require those districts to move into “level 2” of their plans, which assumes a 20% water shortage.

Each district can set its own rules for “level 2” and they often include measures like further limiting water use for outdoor purposes and paying people to install more efficient appliances or landscaping that needs less water. They must include a communication plan to urge local residents to use less water.

…&…you know…sometimes you just hope it’s not going beyond the talking stage

President Joe Biden said Monday the U.S. would be willing to intervene militarily if China were to invade the self-governing island of Taiwan, again sowing confusion over U.S. policy in the region.
The question came up in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons,” a reporter asked. “Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”

“Yes,” Biden responded.

“That’s the commitment we made,” he added.

A White House official appeared to walk back the declaration that the U.S. could intervene militarily shortly afterward.

“As the President said, our policy has not changed. He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” the official said in a statement. “He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”
Similar comments Biden has made about Taiwan have prompted confusion in the past.

While the U.S. is required by law to provide democratically governed Taiwan — which Beijing views as a breakaway region — with defensive weapons, a policy of “strategic ambiguity” has long made it unclear what exactly the U.S. would do if Taiwan were attacked.

Biden said at the news conference that Washington’s “policy toward Taiwan” had “not changed at all.”

…& while it’s not like he didn’t say some other stuff besides

President Biden has enlisted a dozen Asia-Pacific nations to join a new loosely defined economic bloc meant to counter China’s dominance and reassert American influence in the region five years after his predecessor withdrew the United States from a sweeping trade accord that it had negotiated itself.

The alliance will bring the United States together with such regional powerhouses as Japan, South Korea and India to establish new rules of commerce in the fastest-growing part of the world and offer an alternative to Beijing’s leadership. But wary of liberal opposition at home, Mr. Biden’s new partnership will avoid the market access provisions of traditional trade deals, raising questions about how meaningful it will be.
“It is by any account the most significant international economic engagement that the United States has ever had in this region,” Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo, who will lead some of the negotiations triggered by the agreement, told reporters on Sunday. “And the launch of it tomorrow here in Tokyo marks an important turning point in restoring U.S. economic leadership in the region and presenting Indo-Pacific countries an alternative to China’s approach to these critical issues.”

In addition to the United States, India, Japan and South Korea, the 13 members of the framework will include Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Together, the participating nations represent about 40 percent of the world economy, and any specific agreements that emerge from the grouping could go a long way toward setting standards even beyond its membership.
The new Biden initiative comes less than five months after the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership officially went into force, linking 15 Asia-Pacific economies in the world’s largest trade bloc. Most of the countries Mr. Biden signed up for his framework already belong to the bloc with China.

For the United States, the new framework effectively replaces the more expansive Trans-Pacific Partnership as the main vehicle to shape the flow of goods and services in the region. President Barack Obama, with Mr. Biden as his vice president, negotiated the T.P.P., only to have Mr. Trump abandon it on his first full weekday in office, leaving the bloc to proceed without its largest member.

…so…while the band plays on

Today’s billionaire class is pushing a radically anti-democratic agenda for America – backing Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen, calling for restrictions on voting and even questioning the value of democracy.

Peter Thiel, the billionaire tech financier who is among those leading the charge, once wrote, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”

Thiel is using his fortune to squelch democracy. He donated $15m to the successful Republican Ohio senatorial primary campaign of JD Vance, who alleges that the 2020 election was stolen and that Biden’s immigration policy has meant “more Democrat voters pouring into this country.

Thiel has donated at least $10m to the Arizona Republican primary race of Blake Masters, who also claims Trump won the 2020 election and admires Lee Kuan Yew, the authoritarian founder of modern Singapore.
Thiel and his fellow billionaires in the anti-democracy movement don’t want to conserve much of anything – at least not anything that occurred after the 1920s, which includes Social Security, civil rights, and even women’s right to vote. As Thiel wrote:

The 1920s were the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics. Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women – two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians – have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron.

Rubbish. If “capitalist democracy” is becoming an oxymoron, it’s not because of public assistance or because women got the right to vote. It’s because billionaire capitalists like Thiel are drowning democracy in giant campaign donations to authoritarian candidates who repeat Trump’s big lie.

Not incidentally, the 1920s marked the last gasp of the Gilded Age, when America’s rich ripped off so much of the nation’s wealth that the rest had to go deep into debt both to maintain their standard of living and to maintain overall demand for the goods and services the nation produced.

When that debt bubble burst in 1929, we got the Great Depression.
Meanwhile, the major annual event of the Conservative Political Action Conference (Cpac) – the premier convening organization of the American political right – was held this past week in Budapest.

That’s no accident. The Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán and his ruling Fidesz party have become a prominent source of inspiration for America’s anti-democracy movement. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former adviser, describes Orbán’s agenda as that of a “Trump before Trump”.

Orbán has used his opposition to immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, abortion and religions other than Christianity as cover for his move toward autocracy – rigging Hungary’s election laws so his party stays in power, capturing independent agencies, controlling the judiciary and muzzling the press.
Tucker Carlson – Fox News’s progenitor of white replacement theory – broadcast his show from Budapest. Trump spoke remotely. Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows also spoke (although he refuses to speak to the House committee investigating the January 6 assault on American democracy).
If we want to guard what is left of our freedom, we will need to meet today’s anti-democracy movement with a bold pro-democracy movement that protects the institutions of self-government from authoritarian strongmen like Trump and his wannabes, and from big money like Peter Thiel’s.

…while we impatiently tap feet, drum fingers & roll eyes

The House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol is expected to stage six public hearings in June on how Donald Trump and some allies broke the law as they sought to overturn the 2020 election results, according to sources familiar with the inquiry.

The hearings are set to be a pivotal political moment for the country as the panel aims to publicly outline the potentially unlawful schemes that tried to keep the former president in office despite his defeat at the hands of Joe Biden.
The select committee has already alleged that Trump violated multiple federal laws to overturn the 2020 election, including obstructing Congress and defrauding the United States. But the hearings are where the panel intends to show how they reached those conclusions.

According to the draft schedule, the June public hearings will explore Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, starting and ending with prime-time hearings at 8pm on the 9th and the 23rd. In between, the panel will hold 10am hearings on the 13th, 15th, 16th and 21st.

The select committee appears to be planning for the hearings to be extensive affairs. The prime-time hearings are currently scheduled to last between 1.5 and 2 hours and the morning hearings between 2 and 2.5 hours.
The select committee is expected, for instance, to run through how the Trump White House appeared to coordinate the illegal plan to send fake electors to Congress, the plot to seize voting machines, and the unlawful plan to delay the certification of Biden’s win.
The select committee additionally intends to address the question of intent, such as why Trump deliberately misled the crowd that he would march with them to the Capitol, and why he resisted entreaties to call off the rioters from obstructing the joint session on January 6.
Capping off the six hearings under the current schedule, the sources said, will be a close examination of video footage of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys militia groups’ leaders meeting in a parking garage the day before the deadly riots, and their movements at the Capitol.

That final hearing is notable, the sources said, because the select committee is attempting to connect Trump’s political plan for January 6 and the militia groups’ violence at the Capitol in what could form evidence that Trump oversaw an unlawful conspiracy.
The video footage of the militia group leaders at a rendezvous the day before the Capitol attack that the select committee intends to review has also already been referenced in seditious conspiracy indictments, including against the Oath Keepers’ chief, Stewart Rhodes.

…& wonder if anyone knows when the proverbial fat lady might be rolling up to grace us all with a swansong that might put some of these misbegotten, maliciously mendacious & morally bankrupt “masterminds” out of our collective misery

Earlier last week, the Justice Department dropped a bombshell allegation against one of the key figures in former President Donald Trump’s circle. According to the Justice Department, billionaire developer Steve Wynn — a man who has known Trump for years and who served as the finance chair of the Republican National Committee during Trump’s first year in office — also worked as a foreign agent on behalf of the Chinese government. As such, the Justice Department is seeking to have Wynn register as a foreign agent.

According to a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department, Wynn used his perch to liaise with other foreign agents working on behalf of China to try to convince Trump to target an unnamed Chinese dissident, including by revoking the dissident’s visa and placing him on the U.S.’s no-fly list. Wynn’s primary contact in the operation was Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy, who pleaded guilty in 2020 to working as an unregistered agent on behalf of Malaysian and Chinese interests — and who at one time served under Wynn as the RNC’s deputy finance chair. (Wynn stepped down as RNC finance chair in 2018 following sexual misconduct claims.)
And it’s not hard to see why the Justice Department resorted to such a drastic measure. Since 2018, the department says it told Wynn multiple times that he had to register his lobbying efforts — and every time, the agency says, Wynn refused.

On the one hand, the allegations are shocking. After all, the U.S. government is formally accusing a longtime Trump compatriot, and the man charged with overseeing finances for the Republican National Committee, of secretly working on behalf of a global superpower that is often at odds with American interests. One would think such an allegation would spark a wholesale reckoning among Republican Party leadership.

…probably on account of how that sort of thing would seem to stand to reason

But instead, these allegations have been mostly met with a collective shrug. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Wynn, after all, is hardly the only member of Trump’s orbit who is accused of having tried to bend the president to another country’s will. Alongside Broidy, Trump’s campaign chair (Paul Manafort) and deputy campaign chair (Rick Gates) were both convicted of illicitly lobbying for a foreign government. The same goes for Mike Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, who admitted to secretly working as a foreign agent for Turkey, in addition to taking tens of thousands of dollars from the Kremlin. And Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, remains under federal investigation for also allegedly working as a foreign agent, after being connected to lobbying efforts from Turkey to Venezuela to pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. (Giuliani has denied the allegations.)

Nor is this the only major news this week regarding illicit foreign lobbyists whispering in Trump’s ear. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors revealed more details about the alleged links between the United Arab Emirates and Tom Barrack, Trump’s major fundraiser and former foreign policy adviser. As the prosecutors in U.S. Eastern District Court have alleged, Barrack’s private equity firm received hundreds of millions of dollars from the UAE’s sovereign wealth fund in 2017 — all of it coming at the same time that Barrack was allegedly inserting pro-UAE language into Trump’s speeches, and while Barrack was passing internal White House discussions to his UAE handlers.

Between the charges against Wynn and the new allegations against Barrack, Trump’s administration appears even more open to foreign meddling than was previously thought. And there’s little reason to think we won’t learn more details, and more secret connections, in the near future.

…so…I guess we got that to look forward to…déjà vu all over again…& all that sort of thing…speaking of which…let me see what I can drum in in the way of probably-familiar tunes



  1. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/24/new-york-city-to-bid-on-2024-democratic-national-convention-00034594

    Oh God no. While not as economically devastating as hosting an Olympics, a major-party National Convention is a cavalcade of misery for residents.

    In 2004 we got the Republican National Convention (post-9/11 fetishism) and I lived in Chelsea at the time, so every night after work I’d saddle up my hound, no less of a Faithful Hound than my current Faithful Hound, and we’d wander over to observe the chaos at Madison Square Garden. There were several barricades all around and with supreme confidence we’d just blow right past them. (That’s part of the key to success in life, I’ve found. So many people suffer from Imposter Syndrome that they’re constantly self-questioning…)

    She was mostly German shepherd so no one knew what to think of us. Are we with the police? FBI? Secret Service? And yet we look New York-ish (that dog had a ruby-red leather Coach collar) so maybe we…who knows what people thought, but at least we weren’t “kettled” with the protesters and shipped off to damp, moldy warehouses on the rotting Hudson River piers to cool our heels. I felt like Hunter Thompson, but not in a good way.

    • It’s astonishing what you can get away with if you’re a white man who acts like you know what you’re doing. When I did marketing events I frequently strolled through the access corridors in convention centers to other conventions without being challenged. Just act like you belong — most people don’t get paid enough to make trouble for you.

      There was an old television series back in the 70s, James at 15, I believe, where the title character, James, falls in with a ne’er-do-well friend. They’re in a store and James admires a canoe. The friend says, okay, grab that end. They lift it over their heads and walk out of the store carrying it. Nobody stops them because who would be crazy enough to steal a canoe like that in front of everyone? Finally James says, wait, I’m not stealing a canoe and I don’t have any place to keep a freaking canoe anyway (or something like that). So they turn around and put it back.

      That scene always stuck with me because it’s so true. If you’re brazen enough, most people will never ask what you’re doing. Now, again, you’ve got to be a white guy — I seriously doubt it works that well for other people.

      • I loved James at 15 (later James at 16)! Lasted only one season. The network execs were idiots. So whatever happened to James/Lance Kerwin in real life?

        ‘In a July 2010 article, it was stated that Kerwin was then working as a “pastor at Calvary Chapel in Kapaa, Hawaii and a U-Turn for Christ program leader”. In that same article, Kerwin and his wife Yvonne pled guilty to falsifying documents to obtain state medical assistance in Hawaii. Kerwin was sentenced to five years probation and 300 hours of community service. He publicly apologized.

        ‘Lance Kerwin currently sells timeshares with Diamond Resorts and lives on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.’

        Well. On the one hand, he gets to live on Kuaui. On the other–everything else.

        • I came across all that when I was googling James at 15 to try to verify my recollections. Another child star gone bad. Why, one might think the television/movie industry is bad for kids.

          • Did you notice the part where Kim Richards was among those making guest appearances? She’s a hot mess, as was chronicled in detail during her stint on “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

  2. …oh…& by the by… @farscythe was wondering about how the UK was doing with the whole energy dimension of what’s euphemistically referred to as the “cost of living crisis” (…which I guess does sound better than the “people getting priced out of life” crisis)…I was too blithe when I took the previously quoted guesswork about the next hike in the price cap

    Energy price cap set to rise to £2,800 in October [BBC]

    …so…it went up by 54% or so on april 1st…which was a jump of £693…& took it to £1,971…so…£2,800 would be a jump of another £829…which I think is around 42% that time around…or…around 220% or so of what it was before april…so…one of the energy supply companies currently estimates that around 40% of their customers will be in “fuel poverty” this side of christmas (…think that means paying utilities costing more than 10% of their household income) as a result of this thing that isn’t predictable enough for the government to do anything to balance it out until after it definitively gets worse

    …but I was too harsh about it…see the £200 the government said they’d lend people to help them out isn’t happening until october (…they get to pay it back at £40/year for the following 5years…which at least doesn’t sound like getting charged interest)…but is separate from the £150 non-repayable rebate they should be getting on their council tax bill…which I’m sure will make all the difference?

    …unless they happen to be among the one-in-eight low income households that won’t likely see that, one way or another…who by sheer coincidence are also much more likely to be on the pre-payment system that would have made that £693 jump more like £708…because it’s traditional to charge the most to the folks who can least afford the things they can’t do without

    …it’s all probably somewhere in the small print of that whole “levelling up” thing boris is all about?

    • whilst that is better than nothing…i guess….by my math that still means…ummmm a lot of people are going to be screwed six ways from sunday come winter…with the pre paid crowd getting super extra screwed…

      obviously my faith that this particular gubment will actually get a working plan together is pretty much non existant….probably be a kneejerk throw bandages at things jobbie…

      • …yeah…pretty good chance that “jobbie” might end up having quite a bit in common with the way billy connolly used the term…which reminds me that I probably should have made “two little boys in blue” one of the tunes at the bottom today…the chorus seems timely, if nothing else

        Do you think I could leave you lying
        When I can lie my head off too
        If somebody squawks in the witness box
        I’ll cover up for you
        I’ll tell a pack of lies, pull the wool over their eyes
        The way the Sergeant taught us to
        Before you count to three, we’ll be off scot-free
        We’re two little boys in blue

        …of course that was about “the good old days”…& with a cold war running hot in ukraine…& gas running somewhat less reliably & a whole lot more expensively…much as I’d like to think everything would stay comfortably within a “yes, minister” sort of a range I fear those days are past…& even the OG “house of cards” is probably a bit over-sophisticated for the current tory crop…the language is almost certainly more in line with “the thick of it” for a start…so…I don’t really like to bring “game of thrones” into it but winter is most assuredly coming…& not, as they say, in a nice way?

  3. I covered a lot of this yesterday but in case anybody’s looking for follow-up on the Southern Baptist scandal:



    The report describes how key Southern Baptist leaders engaged in a pattern of ignoring, stonewalling and even “vilifying” sex abuse survivors. The report details multiple instances when Southern Baptist leaders shot down requests by survivors and other concerned members to maintain a database of abusers. Publicly, the leaders said they couldn’t because of “church polity,” or the denomination’s decentralized structure. But the report found that their attorneys had advised them that they could keep such a list and that the leaders did so in secret.

    The most recent list of sex abusers prepared by a staff member contained the names of 703 alleged abusers, with 409 believed to be SBC affiliated at some point, according to the report. Guidepost, the firm that conducted the investigation, found that nine people who were accused are still in ministry, two of whom are still associated with an SBC church. Despite collecting these reports for more than 10 years, the report said, “there is no indication leaders took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches.”

  4. The lesson for PRC is that their military command structure, leadership and doctrine still resemble a more corrupt Russia.

    Invading Taiwan involves several types of combat that China has either no recent experience with or historically terrible at such as naval, Air, combined arms, amphibious landings and electronic warfare. As we have seen in the Ukraine, if the defenders are highly motivated and skilled in defense they are going to gut a Ww2 style armored assault. So an Ww2 style amphibious landing would fare just as horrible especially with corrupt and inept leadership.

    • One article I read said the Ukraine war had utterly destroyed the myth of Russian military superiority, and that was going to have lasting repercussions for Russia. Essentially, they can’t run a bluff any more, because everybody knows now their armed forces aren’t worth crap. So now you’ve got Finland and Sweden applying for NATO, because a well-trained Cub Scout troop could easily resist a Russian armored assault, so they’re like, fuck it, what were we afraid of?

      I strongly suspect PRC is watching and reassessing their threat capability. Better to keep your cards hidden than put them all on the table and get your ass kicked.

      I also read an analysis the other day that estimated that Russian troop groupings (it’s like a company, I think) that should number 150 soldiers were going into battle with something like 12 men. And half of those were saying, uh, no thanks, I’m good right here. Y’all go on.

      • …I don’t really know whose figures for a lot of this stuff hover nearest to reality but I think whatever the actual state of the russian military and what that says about the effectiveness of using it as a threat the two parts of this that I assume must be giving xi et al some pause have to be the degree to which “tell the boss what they want to hear” on the russians’ part seems to have been arguably the biggest force multiplier the ukrainians have had going for them…& also what it looks like when suddenly everyone is in a hurry to throw actual military stuff into the hands of the folks you were planning to walk all over while seriously screwing with both your economy & in particular your off-shore funds

        …it’s not looking like a very appealing picture, I’d imagine…but what really stops me from feeling relieved by that is the part where to a certain sort of calculus there’s a way to restore your class A international threat status for the low price of putting the nuclear part of the equation to the test…because apparently not everyone’s seen dr strangelove…or whatever it is that’s required to make “we could always nuke something” an actual thing to contemplate?

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